Submitted by Jane P. Stork, Principal, Etna-Dixmont School.
Pictured: Etna-Dixmont Farm to School Team (left to right) Jane P. Stork, Principal; Caitlyn Barker, fourth grade teacher; Ryan Parker, RSU 19 School Board member and designing and Maine FoodCorps Manager; Colleen Tibbetts, Food Service Manager; Anne Carney, third grade teacher; John Thurston, Maine Farm to School coach. Very Important Members of the EDS FTS Team not present: Meghan Baker, school social worker; Mark Guzzi, parent and co-owner of Peacemeal Farm with Marcia Ferry; and Dan Soucy FoodCorps Service member.
The Etna-Dixmont School was selected as one of twelve Northeast school teams to attend the 2019-20 Northeast Farm to School Institute. Shelburne Farms and NOFA-VT offer this year-long professional development program through their Vermont FEED initiative to support selected schools in implementing effective, school-wide Farm to School (FTS) programs—programs that create a culture of wellness, improve food quality and access, engage students in agriculture and nutrition education, and strengthen local food systems.
Thirty million students participate in the National School Lunch Program daily. Lunch shaming, rising school lunch debts, and highly processed foods are trending topics about school cafeterias in today’s media. But school meal programs can—and have—improved, and when FTS is part of those improvements, meal participation increases by 17%. FTS connects schools with their local producers and facilitates getting fresh, whole foods on the lunch tray. As more students eat school meals, school meal program revenue increases, and more local food can be purchased, providing all kids with the chance to participate in the local food system.
This year, Congress will be debating reauthorization of the national Child Nutrition Act, also known as the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 (CNR). The legislation supports FTS grants to projects like the Northeast Farm to School Institute. The Institute brings selected school teams together for a three-day intensive to build a FTS action plan for their school community. Then, with the support of a coach, they spend the next year putting their plans into action and implementing new programs like farm visits, gardening and cooking activities, serving seasonal foods in the cafeteria, and offering food-based, hands-on science, math, and literacy lessons. Over nine years, the FTS Institute has supported programs at 97 schools and districts, impacting over 102,000 Northeast students.
The twelve teams selected for the 2019-20 Northeast Farm to School Institute were: Academy School, Brattleboro, VT; Berne-Knox Westerlo Central School District, Berne, NY; Etna-Dixmont School, Etna, ME; Innovation Academy Charter School, Tyngsboro, MA; Janet S. Munt Family Room, Burlington, VT; Naugatuck Public Schools, Naugatuck, CT; Providence Public School District, Providence, RI; Robert V. Connors Elementary School, Lewiston, ME; Russell I. Doig Middle School, Trumansburg, NY; Williamstown Middle/High School, Williamstown, VT; Windsor Southeast Supervisory Union, Hartland, VT; Windham Northeast Supervisory Union, Westminster, VT.
The Etna-Dixmont School is fortunate to be situated on over 100+ acres of land that consists of fields, woods and wetlands. In the spring of 2015, the Etna-Dixmont School received a grant that supported the beginnings of our school garden. A quarter acre of field next to the school was rototilled and prepped for planting. Over the last five years, students, staff and community members have helped plant vegetables, wildflowers and cover crop.
Shelburne Farms is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to cultivate and inspire learning for a sustainable future. That means learning that links knowledge, inquiry, and action to help students build a healthy future for their communities and the planet. Through our participation in the 2019-20 Northeast Farm to School Institute and our work with our Maine Farm to School coach, John Thurston, and FoodCorps Service member, Dan Soucy, our goal is to establish a comprehensive and sustainable garden to table program. We are committed to providing students with the opportunity to participate in project-based learning and to gain a deeper knowledge about how to become a healthy school while becoming responsible and productive citizens.